REVIEW: Knight Errant (novel) by John Jackson Miller

My newest review is the novel Star Wars: Knight Errant, by John Jackson Miller. The book has been out over a month at the time I post this review, and I’ve just now reached the point of completing it. That probably sums up my lack of enthusiasm for the novel. 

You can read my full review for the details, but sadly I have to say it: the Knight Errant novel is the perfect example of why Del Rey and Lucas Books should stick with their policy of only hiring previously published novel authors to write books for Star Wars. In some reviews of Knight Errant around the internet, you’ll see effusive praise for Miller’s world-building. I don’t deny that Miller is very skilled in that department, and if you’re the kind of reader who enjoys reading novels for their world-building environment more than their characters and stories, then you probably will like this book. But for readers, like me, who care primarily about the tale being told, there’s just not enough story in Knight Errant to carry a 400-page novel.

And that’s ultimately my bottom line: Knight Errant is a niche book for a certain type of fan who enjoys world-building and factual details about the Star Wars galaxy. In fact, much of what’s presented in the novel could just as easily, and perhaps more effectively, been presented in a roleplaying game manual or a nonfiction sourcebook. For female readers who want to read about characters, and their interactions and relationships, this book has basically none of that to offer them. For that reason, I wouldn’t recommend it most of my friends who read novels for entertainment, even the ones who read Star Wars.

No brownie sundae here.

5/10

Fangirl

Fangirl

Tricia Barr took her understanding of brand management and marketing, mixed it with a love of genre storytelling, and added a dash of social media flare to create FANgirl Blog, where she discusses Star Wars, fandom, and the intersection of women within Star Wars fandom. She is co-author of Ultimate Star Wars and Star Wars Visual Encyclopedia from DK Publishing, a featured writer for Star Wars Insider magazine with numerous articles on the Hero's Journey. Her FANgirl opinions can be heard on the podcasts Hyperspace Theories and Fangirls Going Rogue.

Tricia Barr's novel, Wynde, won the 2014 Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal for Best Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Ebook. She was also part of Silence in the Library's successful all-female creator science fiction and fantasy anthology Athena's Daughters, which is available now. For excerpts and tales of her adventures in creating a fictional universe, hop over to TriciaBarr.com.
Fangirl
Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Print this page

Fangirl

Tricia Barr took her understanding of brand management and marketing, mixed it with a love of genre storytelling, and added a dash of social media flare to create FANgirl Blog, where she discusses Star Wars, fandom, and the intersection of women within Star Wars fandom. She is co-author of Ultimate Star Wars and Star Wars Visual Encyclopedia from DK Publishing, a featured writer for Star Wars Insider magazine with numerous articles on the Hero's Journey. Her FANgirl opinions can be heard on the podcasts Hyperspace Theories and Fangirls Going Rogue. Tricia Barr's novel, Wynde, won the 2014 Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal for Best Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Ebook. She was also part of Silence in the Library's successful all-female creator science fiction and fantasy anthology Athena's Daughters, which is available now. For excerpts and tales of her adventures in creating a fictional universe, hop over to TriciaBarr.com.

3 thoughts on “REVIEW: Knight Errant (novel) by John Jackson Miller

  • February 28, 2011 at 11:22 pm
    Permalink

    I’d add that Miller doesn’t really create a sense of urgency, period. It is entirely possible to put the book down somewhere in the first third and not pick it up again for quite a while. Which is, er, what I’ve done. *shifty look at the paperback* Your review is probably right in all particulars, unfortunately.

    Though I’d argue this minor comment –
    “But upon seeing the novel’s cover art, I was nonplussed by how androgynous the image was. Is that supposed to be a girl? The artwork is fine, but I don’t see it captivating a woman’s eye as she’s perusing the bookstore or online booksellers.”
    It didn’t captivate my eye, but it did make me stop in the bookstore and take a look. I already knew Knight Errant had a female protagonist, yes, but I do think it looks like a woman on the cover – the lips are shaped wrong and are too brightly-colored to signify ‘male’. Plus, the shading of the eyes emphasizes their color too much, which isn’t done for males with non-plot-significant-coloring (Sith eyes).

    Unfortunately, the bizarre shading of the eyes did give me a warning – that this was not going to be a selfless-and-pure Jedi. Part of what makes the theoretical vigilante-Jedi fun in fanfiction and the like, I think, is that the character is more emotionally alive than Punch-Clock Holier-Than-Thou Jedi #49382, who can be written by a good author – like Stover – to actually have emotions and thoughtful reasoning going on underneath the stoic surface, but otherwise will constantly be leaning over, patting the readers on the head, and telling them not to argue with the big wise Jedi, for the Plot – er, the Force! – guides them in all their decisions. Kerra Holt, however, came off as PC HTT Jedi #49383 – Now With Vigilante Action! to me. If I wanted to read a character irritably justifying dubious actions to the readers, I could read LOTF again. It could just be because I’m only in the first third, but I stopped really liking her the moment she tied the Bothan spy up and stuffed him in a garbage bin, there to probably (in-world) suffer a horrific fate at the hands of Lord Egomaniac. Uh… not very Jedi-like, that!

    Yes, it would have been Impractical and Dangerous and all those Silly, Non-Pragmatic Things That Only You Spoiled, Soft Book-Readers Can Think Up, Whereas She is Hardcore – but heroes LIVE off of doing impractical, dangerous things. Heroics are often that way. At least at the point I read up to, Kerra had no idealistic counterpart to act as her foil – so we’re stuck in a Star Wars novel with no idealistic hero and a protagonist who doesn’t even make a vivid hard-edged resistance member? Wunderbar.

    Sorry about the rambling! I suppose I’ll take a different view of it and read it for the world-building, now that I’m cued in that it’s primarily sourcebook-like rather than being plot-focused. So when do I find out how many dice Kerra rolls to attack, and how many times she gets to use her Force powers per day? And how much gold, approximately, does one get for raiding Lord Damian’s hoard? And does it really all have to be in the form of statues of Lord Damian?

    Reply
  • March 4, 2011 at 11:49 pm
    Permalink

    I’ve finished reading it now, and here’s what I thought:
    I think that the first section of the book was thoroughly uninteresting.

    However, I thought the Dyarchy was brilliant, and Arkadia’s realm was… interesting, though it shattered my suspension of disbelief. Unfortunately, both could have done better with more time devoted to them, which again makes me irked over the first third of the book. It seems a waste to spend time dawdling about a Generic Oppressed Society when Miller had two far more interesting worlds waiting in the wings.

    I have a question about your review, though:
    “Contrast Knight Errant with the One Sith in the highly acclaimed Star Wars: Legacy comics; we don’t need to know what makes them tick, other than they’re evil and bent on total galactic domination.”
    Don’t villains count as characters? I found Quillan & Dromika, Arkadia, and Vilia to save the book on the character front, though Rusher was also good and Narsk became far more interesting near the end. With villains that were only “evil and bent on total galactic domination”, Knight Errant would have had the consistency of cardboard – as it did during the first third or so of the book.

    I also believe Miller highlighted the unusual Sith – Quillan & Dromika, Arkadia, and Vilia – as being definitely little like the typical Sith, so I don’t think his work runs the risk of conflicting with the traditional Star Wars view of the Sith. And who knows? Vilia may be putting on a very good act. Her eyes ARE red, after all, and isn’t it iiiiinteresting that she’s made a point of chumming up to a certain living exploitable resource? As a Dark Lord in her own right, she can probably sift Quillan’s mind for information without needing a translator. I think that, if there are any sequels, people will regret underestimating Quillan without Dromika – or, as even more of a twist, Dromika without Quillan…
    Yes, for NOW the Sith may seem wildly off the beaten path of the Dark Side, but recall that people thought the same about the Mortis episodes. “A new view on the Force!” And then, in the end, it turned out to be right back to the traditional view, more or less. A hypothetical Knight Errant 2 might do the same thing. (Maybe Arkadia and Vilia BOTH poisoned Chagras… ;) )

    While I agree that it would have been good for the so-called PROTAGONISTS to get as much development as the villains, I think the development of the villains saved the book.

    Okay, I have one more quibble – “and the world-building was more focused on showing the diabolical and maniacal nature of the Sith than in creating a Star Wars environment in which the reader would really be invested in the heroes’ success.” I would say that was only true of the first third (you might guess that I really don’t like the first third in retrospect :) ). Quillian and Dromika were neither diabolical nor maniacal, and I think they made FAR better villains that the usual Sith because of that – instead of wasting their time on ostentatious displays of power, they dominated someone to do their scheming for them and, because of that, became the overminds for a whole PLANET. Their world made for an excellent eldritch-horror piece, if an undeveloped one (dratted waste of pages at the start!). Meanwhile, Arkadia actively chose NOT to be maniacal, and was the better for it – and her plans were more scheming than diabolical. Ruthless, yes, but not laced with the cackling sadism that I associate with “diabolical”.

    Overall, I’d rate it 7/10, giving the later two sections an 8/10 and a 3/10 to the first section – not just for quality, but because it took away valuable page time from the better parts. I do agree with you on all points except for the ones I specifically mentioned, but I suppose it would explain a bit if I noted that I HAVE been known to buy D&D sourcebooks solely for reading pleasure… :) (Worse yet, I don’t even PLAY D&D…)

    Just thought I’d give my opinion after I’d read the whole book.

    I’m glad the whole blog is back up!

    P.S.
    It would make a terrifying amount of sense for Abeloth to be a far-future Quillan and Dromika. The Pool of Knowledge is the manifestation of Quillan’s talent**, and Abeloth herself is a physical manifestation of Dromika’s compulsion ability – an enormous mouth for her commanding voice, and tentacles to reach out and capture others.* Furthermore, Abeloth has an entire planet under her control (sound familiar?) and “includes” people!*** It all makes sense!

    …Well, maybe not quite, but – you heard this crazy theory here first, folks! :) – g.s.

    * Part of why Abeloth would be so peeved at the Dark Man prophecy changing – whatever remains of Quillan is throwing a temper tantrum over Luke and Jacen+ mucking up HIS vision. How dare the Jedi alter the path HE had foreseen!
    **Now that I think of it, it also recalls the tentacles of the Celegians and the Regent…
    ***Perhaps one or both of the twins drank from the Font of Power – which is the REAL abomination that the Celestials wanted blocked off – and “Ascended” to a level where their control over the world around them extended to the physical, so that they could control their very forms and those of the “aspects” that they “included”?

    +Final comment on this theory – Speaking of Jacen, could it be that the way the Abeloth plot ties into him is that, while he wasn’t taken over by Abeloth, whatever he did regarding her made him influenced by her thought processes, making him much more inclined to dominate people’s minds and giving him a “Conviction” that it was his birthright to control others? Perhaps his first appearance post-NJO being in the middle of a conflict with a giant hive-mind was, in a certain symbolic way, more than a coincidence…

    Ridiculous theories aside… Has anyone considered the possibility that “Ascension” refers to a revelation about ABELOTH’S ascension to her current form?

    Reply
  • July 14, 2011 at 2:18 am
    Permalink

    Having just finished the comic arc “Aflame,” I was more impressed with it than the impression of the novel received here. So I think I’ll keep reading the comic series, but leave the novel…especially as I wasn’t that impressed with Miller’s KotOR series either.

    Any plans to review Aflame? It seems like Kerra’s a lot more heroic in that one than she is here.

    Also: when I say I hope new talent gets added to the Star Wars pool, I do not mean from their comics or video game stables. Karpyshan and Miller, while decent/good in their chosen field, have tended to produce novels which really bug/bore me (Karpyshan especially, after reading Darth Bane 1, the first two Mass Effect novels – why does he keep writing novels? His dialogue for games is so much better. Also, stop with the torture. And they gave this guy the Revan novel?)

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *